The start to British bantamweight Brad Pickett's UFC career hasn't exactly gone as expected.
A back injury forced him to withdraw from a planned matchup with former WEC champ Miguel Torres, and when he did debut against Renan Barao at this past November's UFC 138 event, Pickett was submitted in the opening round.
But Pickett (20-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) is anything but discouraged by his recent luck. In fact, as he prepares to take on the always tough Damacio Page (12-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at this month's UFC on FUEL TV 2 event, Pickett said he's encouraged that the organization continues to hand him tough opponents.
"It shows that Sean Shelby, the matchmaker there, has faith in me and what I can do," Pickett told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio
). "He believes I'm at that level, and he gives me that sort of competition. Even Damacio Page, my next opponent, he's been in the top 10 – not at the moment in time because he's been inactive due to injuries and stuff, but at one point in time, he was in the top 10. He's world-class.
"When you get to the UFC, you don't really get a chance to pick your opponents. You fight who they put in front of you."
Pickett, of course, has had a tougher road than most while fighting in Zuffa-owned promotions. After a WEC 45 debut win over Kyle Dietz, "One Punch" went on to face Demetrious Johnson, Scott Jorgensen, Ivan Menjivar and Barao. Many believed he was in line for a potential title shot should be best Barao, but the upset loss derailed those plans.
Pickett said it was a valuable reminder to never look beyond what's immediately at hand.
"Damacio Page is a very dangerous opponent, and I'd be stupid to look past him," Pickett said. "I was fighting Renan Barao, and everyone was going, 'Oh, if you beat him, would you want to fight Cruz?' I was saying, 'I've got to beat this kid. All that talk is just talk.' I want to put all my focus on the guy in front of me. If I beat the guy, then I can be like, 'OK, well I'd like to fight this guy. This is the direction I should go.'
"If you win, you go through one door. If you lose, you go through a different door. My job is to make sure I go through the right door."
Pickett gets that chance on April 14, when the two meet on the main card of UFC on FUEL TV 2, which takes place at Stockholm's Ericsson Globe Arena. The night's main card airs live on FUEL TV following the night's Facebook-streamed prelims.
Pickett, who trains with Florida's American Top Team, said he's happy to fight close to his native England.
"Me fighting in Europe, it's still quite close where my friends and family can come watch me," Pickett said. "When I used to fight in the WEC, it's quite expensive for my family to fly over to America. When I had my last fight in the U.K., it was a lot easier for me them to come watch me. This one being in Sweden, as well, they can come and watch me, as well."
But more than the support of his family, Pickett is looking forward to earning an octagon win. At 1-2 in his past three fights, the two "Fight of the Night" bonuses he collected in defeat are of little consolation.
"It's not always about the money," Pickett said. "Obviously, money helps, this being your job. Obviously it helps you in the long-term, but I'd rather not have the 'Fight of the Night' and won those fights, to be honest. That's me being completely honest.
"Obviously it wasn't bad when you look back and say, 'Yeah, I lost the fight, but I got a nice little check.' But to me, it's a winning business. The more successful you want to be and the more money you want to earn, you've got to win fights. You can't afford to lose and get 'Fight of the Night' bonuses."
A win won't get Pickett back into immediate title contention, but with division champ Dominick Cruz on a tear, UFC brass is always looking for fresh talent. Pickett's fan-friendly brawling style are also in his favor, but the Brit isn't worrying about anything beyond April 14.
"I'd like to fight all the top guys in the weightclass," Pickett said. "I think stylistically, I match up well against Miguel Torres. Obviously, sometimes styles make fights. I think Miguel is a phenomenal opponent that's done so well in the sport and done so much for the sport. It's just one of those matchups where you go, 'Oh, I love that matchup.'
"Even Michael McDonald – that's another guy that I would quite like to fight. But you can't really pick and choose who you fight, and at the end of the day, I've never looked past an opponent. My next opponent is Damacio Page."